A possible contender for top 10 film of the year, Rick Famuyiwa’s “Dope” is the highly-entertaining story of a group of 90’s Hip-Hop loving geeks, who let their passion for the era infiltrate their language, dress sense and attitude to life. A chance meeting in the street with a mid-level drug dealer, leads to an invite to a party and a mix-up that results in all kinds of chaos. Much like an intelligent version of The Hangover styled comedies; the story rolls on with our central characters getting deeper into a hole they want no part of.
The three kids are much more complex and intriguing that those characters you usually encounter in the types of paint by numbers escapade comedies. Shameik Moore gives an incredible performance as Malcolm, the smart kid destined for great things if only the people around him would allow him to reach his potential. Forming the remaining parts of the trio, Tony Revolori is quick-witted and genuine in his portrayal of “Jib”, and the feisty Kiersey Clemons completes the group as the lesbian tomboy “Diggy”.
There is an underlying message in Dope around social perceptions of individuals based on education, upbringing and skin colour, and it goes further to emphasise the disparity of wealth and opportunity dependent on certain lifestyle choices. That being said, it doesn’t dwell on any of these issues nor does it claim to have any moral high-ground on the subjects. Instead, it throws it back in ours and the characters faces, allowing them to exploit the situation for their own personal benefit by any means necessary, essentially turning the issues into ineffective limitations.
What has often tended to be a bleak, controversial and sympathetic affair with respect to inner-city coming of age stories, is instead turned on its head and has presented the audience with a fun little caper. Cinematographer Rachel Morrison has given the film a bright energy, paired with a great soundtrack and a talented cast, which results in this incredible blend of humour and nostalgia in Rick Famuyiwa’s surreal and manic world.
It’s films like this that give me confidence in the fact that we will continue to get original and exciting cinema on our screens. Much in the same way American Ultra blended the genres to make an entertaining film about a single situation unraveling wildly out of control, Dope reminds us that films don’t always have to be depressing and serious.